By David Wade


SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – Shiny and new are two words that are rarely used to describe the MBTA, but that’s changing. The T recently put a dozen brand new train cars in service and hundreds more are on the way.

New Orange Line trains are being tested on a track in Springfield that sits outside a behemoth factory where the T is ratcheting up its $1 billion bet on better trains.

“We want to run the system that our customers want us to run,” said MBTA deputy GM Jeff Gonneville.

Gonneville took WBZ on a tour of the assembly plant. It’s actually owned by CRRC, a Chinese company contracted by the T. CRRC makes the 80,000 pound shell of a train in China and ships it to Massachusetts.

New Orange Line train being tested in Springfield (WBZ-TV)

Local workers get the trains all wired up. One bad connection can interrupt a commute for thousands of people. The empty insides of the cars get bench seats and new theater style seats that can flip up.

“Our current trains do not have these flip seats,” said Gonneville.

It’s all about floor space. Every car can fit about 30 extra people.

“These investments we are making in the system now are going to be a huge part in offering reliable service,” explained Gonneville.

Folding seats on new Orange Line trains being built in Springfield (WBZ-TV)

Gonneville knows what something as simple as a larger door opening can do. “We have a 72-inch clear door opening and that is massive.”

Six feet wide, it helps the so-called “dwell time,” or how long it takes to get people to move on and off the train.

“We really want to hold to a 45-second dwell time at all of our key downtown stations during peak. Part of making that happen is making it easier to get on and off of the trains,” explained Gonneville.

New Orange Line trains being assembled in Springfield (WBZ-TV)

The Springfield warehouse is filled with trains. Here, workers install and test important parts.

In a huge glass box the train cars are blasted with water traveling 150 feet per second. They want to make sure these trains can stand up to the worst possible weather, without leaking.

Then it’s out to the ‘test track to nowhere.’ There are 404 T cars set to be built – 252 on the Red line and 152 on the Orange Line. The hope is to have them on the real tracks in Boston by early 2023.

About a dozen new Orange Line cars are already in service and a couple of weeks ago a set of new Red Line cars were shipped into South Boston. The wraps came off; they went into a testing phase, and should be ready to ride in a few months.

“The MBTA itself is going to be a very modern system and it’s something we are very excited about,” said Gonneville.

New and improved, when was the last time anyone was able to say that about The T?

David Wade

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